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Obama Urged not to Betray Piketon Promise

  • October 6, 2011
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KEY QUOTE: "In the midst of the Solyndra controversy, that has raised serious questions about the Obama Administration’s oversight of taxpayer dollars, hundreds of Southern Ohio workers stand to lose their jobs if the Obama Administration reneges on the president’s promise to support an energy project in the small town of Piketon, Ohio."

Obama Urged not to Betray Piketon Promise

The Piqua Daily Call

By John Boehner

October 5, 2011

In the midst of the Solyndra controversy, that has raised serious questions about the Obama Administration’s oversight of taxpayer dollars, hundreds of Southern Ohio workers stand to lose their jobs if the Obama Administration reneges on the president’s promise to support an energy project in the small town of Piketon, Ohio.  I urge the administration to not betray the citizens of Southern Ohio.

In September 2008, then-Sen. Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, promised Ohioans he would back United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC), Inc.’s application for a loan to construct the American Centrifuge Project’s uranium enrichment plant.   In a letter to then-Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland, presidential candidate Barack Obama pledged that under his administration, ‘energy programs that promote safe and environmentally-sound technologies and are domestically produced, such as the enrichment facility in Ohio, will have my full support.’

Since the president made his promise, USEC has endured years of review and taken the necessary steps to conserve cash and protect jobs.  The company has even gone the extra mile to secure additional private investment to reduce taxpayer exposure, but the Department of Energy still has yet to act. 

In March 2009, while USEC waited to hear word of whether the project would get a loan guarantee, the Department of Energy signed over a $535 million loan to Solyndra which would later be reported as made before final marketing and legal reviews were in.  In the months following, administration officials and the president made their way to Solyndra to congratulate and applaud their work while USEC continued to be delayed for further review for acceptance into the program.

In October 2010, the Department of Energy conceded that Solyndra had a ‘cash flow crisis,’ and then a little under a year later, Solyndra shut its doors, fired more than 1,100 workers, and filed for Chapter 11.  Now the Piketon project is at risk of being shut down, leaving hundreds of jobs in limbo, and the Solyndra controversy has raised serious questions about the Obama Administration’s handling of taxpayer dollars.  In that case, it was the government that seemingly went the extra mile, not the company.

In stark contrast to the ‘stimulus’-centric Solyndra saga, the Piketon project offers the chance to bring thousands of good-paying, long-term jobs to an area suffering from the Buckeye State’s highest jobless rate.  But sadly, on September 30, 2011, USEC announced it would be forced to reduce spending on the Piketon project by 30 percent, and sent out notices to 450 employees who may have to be laid off.

I agree with the sentiment that Senator Rob Portman expressed with the Department of Energy’s inaction: ‘It should not have come to this.  These workers have waited long enough.  I hope that the Obama Administration will realize the impact demobilization will have on Southern Ohio and on our national security and energy security needs and find a path to move forward with a conditional commitment as soon as possible.’

The Obama Administration still has time to do the right thing, but not much.  Without action soon, USEC announced today, it has no choice but to plan on hundreds of layoffs, suspend contracts, and move to shut down the project.  That doesn’t have to happen.

I implore the president, on behalf of all Ohioans, to keep his word.

Boehner represents Ohio’s 8th District, which includes all of Darke, Miami, and Preble counties, most of Butler and Mercer counties, and the northeastern corner of Montgomery County. He was first elected to Congress in 1990.